Nov 14, 2013
Nov 6, 2013
Oct 30, 2013
Oct 23, 2013
Outside counsel fees help push NH litigation tab over $2.3m
And next year is likely to bring more of the same, according to Associate Attorney General Ann Rice, who told the governor and Executive Council recently, "I anticipate that those kinds of costs are going to continue for a while."
When the requests for more money come in, the Joint Fiscal Committee at the State House has to find it in underspent accounts or unexpected revenue, subject to final approval by the Executive Council.
"Historically, litigation expense has been budgeted at about $350,000 a year, and we've had to come back and request more, depending on what our expenses are," Rice told the governor and council in June. "This is an extraordinary year in terms of expense, but we will exceed the $350,000 even in normal years."
The $2.3 million appropriated in 2013 far exceeds the $710,000 spent on litigation in 2012 and was mostly for outside counsel. The Department of Justice has 53 staff attorneys and a budget of $27.6 million.
While the tobacco case is winding down, other cases are just starting to heat up. Executive Councilor Chris Sununu, R-Newfields, recently expressed his concern over a lawsuit filed by TLT Construction Corp. of Wakefield, Mass., has already cost the state $106,569 for outside counsel, second highest on the list for 2013.
"This is in my mind a ticking time bomb for a large amount of money," Sununu told Rice at the June meeting. In a subsequent interview, he expressed his fear that if the state doesn't resolve the lawsuit and resume the project, it will lose the federal funding.
Sometimes the DOJ has no choice but to go outside for the necessary expertise, but many of the cases now farmed out could be handled internally with more attorneys, Foster said.
He pointed out that the typical hourly rate for outside counsel is $250 to $275 an hour. At that rate, it only takes 1,000 hours to generate $275,000 in billings. The department's attorneys make between $63,180 and $83,382 a year in base pay, according to the state's "Transparent NH" website. With benefits, their annual compensation package averages $100,000.
"I plan to bring those sorts of thoughts to the Legislature for the next biennium and have them think about it," Foster said. "I think if we had the bodies, we could do a lot of the work in-house."
Executive Councilor Chris Pappas, D-Manchester, thinks the argument has some merit.
"It's almost like that issue that came up two weeks ago with a consultant the Department of Education was looking to hire," Pappas said. "There's something to be said for having state employees on the job to do the work as opposed to contacting things out in ways that become more expensive."
READER COMMENTS: 0
- Police: Christmas cards stolen from mailboxes - 0
- Police probe Sanborn high school bomb threat - 0
- Raymond man faces trial in second child sex assault case - 0
- Manchester man charged with robbing store 3 times - 0
- Laconia boys and girls club damaged in burglary - 0
- Fugitive Task Force searching for convicted sex offender - 0
- Enfield man killed in hit-and-run in Vermont - 0
- Plea deal possible in Littleton murder - 0
- Winchester man files to plead guilty in crash that killed his brother - 0
READER COMMENTS: 0
- Town's Visiting Nurse Service to get new lease on life in 2014 - 0
- Volunteers sought for discipline committees - 0
- In Portsmouth, ACA primer fails to draw much interest - 0
- Heating fuel assistance funding cuts draw ire of Rep. Kuster - 0
- Nashua aldermen vote for new leadership - 0
- Negotiations with city teachers collapse; Gatsas to take over talks - 0
- Wildcats hockey team falls from national rankings - 0
- Dave D'Onofrio's Patriots Notebook: Another battle looms for Gronk - 0
- Former Kennett quarterback bowl-bound as BC lineman - 0
Wreaths Across America get big send-off
Where’s Waldo? Just ask the NSA
New UNH logo draws mixed reactions
John DiStaso's Granite Status: National Democratic chair to speak at NHIOP in January; Cataldo backs Kenney for Executive Council
- Should applicants for jobless benefits have to pass a drug test?
- Total Votes: 1424